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Project Name: Protection and Restoration Solutions to Reliable and Resilient Integration of Grid-Connected Photovoltaic Installations and Distributed Energy Resources: Design, Testbed, Proof of Work, and Impact Studies
Funding Opportunity: Advanced Systems Integration for Solar Technologies: Situational Awareness and Resilient Solutions for Critical Infrastructure
SETO Subprogram: Systems Integration
Location: Norman, OK
SETO Award Amount: $4.5 million
Awardee Cost Share: $2 million

-- Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations --

This project aims to develop and demonstrate a new technology that protects the distribution grid while supporting a large amount of grid-connected solar generation and other power sources that rely on inverters—the devices that convert direct electric current to alternating current for use on the grid. Distribution grid protection is important because it refers to systems that detect and disconnect faulty or damaged equipment by, for instance, disconnecting fallen power lines. The project team will work to make these protection systems more precise in detecting and responding to a fault event and avoid unnecessarily taking normally operating solar resources offline. 

APPROACH

Existing protection schemes rely on prefixed settings that don’t account for distributed, small-scale generation from rooftop solar. The research team will create an adaptive protection protocol that responds to real-time conditions, enabled by a network of smart relays that communicate with each other. The team will construct a testbed consisting of a realistic small-scale electric grid, known as hardware-in-loop, that can be triggered into faults like the ones current protection systems are designed to respond to. Triggering faults will help the team validate the protection schemes developed in the lab. Then the team will demonstrate the system at utility scale.

INNOVATIONS

This project will establish a network of smart protection devices and network-based algorithms that communicate with each other and work together. This network will be combined with analysis that allows these protection systems to overcome the difficulties of modeling solar and other distributed energy resources. By constructing a reconfigurable, realistic testbed for these models, the team will enable a new research approach that directly targets the physical principles at work, rather than working with models. Finally, by analyzing how inverters can be used to help respond to a fault event, the team will help enable more solar integration and maintain a safe, resilient grid.